JAG Corps History
Origins in the American Revolution
In 1775, only a few days after assuming duties as commander-in-chief of the new army, GEN George Washington insisted that the Continental Congress appoint a lawyer to help with the many courts-martial being conducted. Congress acceded, and a "judge advocate," William Tudor, joined Washington's staff. This appointment of Tudor heralded the birth of a corps of lawyers and legal specialists that is today known as The Judge Advocate General's Corps. By 1776, this Army lawyer, known as the "Judge Advocate General," was personally conducting trials before courts-martial and other military tribunals. He acted not only as prosecutor, but also as legal adviser to the court and as "friend" of the accused.
While GEN Washington wanted a judge advocate to oversee the administration of military justice, his concerns also reflected the larger debate about justice and legal authority that was fueling the American Revolution. The new Nation envisioned by the Founding Fathers was a bold social and political experiment: the 'Rule of Law' would replace the 'Divine Right of Kings.' This Rule of Law was grounded in respect: government would respect individual rights and freedoms, and in return, individuals would respect the government's obligation to regulate and enforce standards of behavior. It is the Rule of Law, in both civilian life and in the military, that ensures Order, Justice, and Equality.
In any event, since the Revolution, the American Army has had its own lawyers---who assist commanders in enforcing Army standards and reinforcing Army values. Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage thrive when soldiers know that they will be treated equally, and that rules and regulations apply to all, regardless of rank or assignment. And judge advocates have always played a critical role in ensuring that these standards and values are obeyed.Early years through Civil War period
Judge advocates served with honor and distinction in the early years of the Republic. In the Civil War era, Army lawyers played prominent roles in two historic legal events at the end of the conflict: The Lincoln Assassination Trials and the Trial of Captain Henry Wirz, commandant of the infamous Andersonville prison camp.
World War I
MAJ Marion W. Howze
At the beginning of World War I, the Judge Advocate General had a "Department" of 17 military lawyers. By December 1918, however, his department had expanded---along with the rest of the American Army---to 426 judge advocates. In any event, the increasing numbers of judge advocates also allowed the role of the Corps to expand; commanders turned to judge advocates for advice in both legal and non-legal matters. Thus, for example, MG Enoch H. Crowder, who had served as the Judge Advocate General since 1911, was appointed Provost Marshal during World War I. While serving in this non-judge advocate assignment, Crowder prepared the Selective Service Act of 1917, and supervised the registration, classification, and induction of nearly three million men in the armed services. In the meantime, rather fierce-looking officers like MAJ Marion W. Howze, performed more traditional legal work in the Judge Advocate General's Department. Howze, a 1903 graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point, was a judge advocate in France with the American Expeditionary Force (AEF).
MG Blanton Winship
And then, of course, there were always judge advocates who could 'do it all'---like COL Blanton Winship. Winship, a Georgia native and graduate of Mercer University's law school, commanded two infantry regiments while also serving as Judge Advocate of the First Army. He was more than equal to the challenge, for his extraordinary heroism and gallantry in combat earned him the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star. COL Winship went on to become The Judge Advocate General in 1931, and the Signal Center and Fort Gordon Staff Judge Advocate's office is named "Winship Hall" in his honor.
LTC Edward S. Thurston
After the war ended in France, judge advocates continued serving areas where fighting continued. Thus, for example, LTC Edward S. Thurston deployed with U.S. troops to Murmansk, in northern Russia in 1919. As the only lawyer in the AEF-North Russia, LTC Thurston was responsible for the administration of military justice, and he reviewed more than 250 courts-martial cases between August 1918 and April 1919.
MAJ Albert J. Galen
Thousands of miles away, in Vladivostok, Siberia, MAJ Albert J. Galen served as the sole American lawyer in the AEF-Siberia. Like Thurston, he endured months of bitter cold, snow and ice.
And, like his colleague in Murmansk, MAJ Galen also faced a variety of legal issues. Galen, for example, researched the legal ramifications of a marriage between an American soldier and a Russian citizen. Was a marriage performed by a Russian Orthodox priest 'legal' under U.S. law? Should an Army chaplain instead perform it? Could the new wife return with her soldier husband to the U.S.?
Some issues were more somber. The 'Red' or Bolshevik forces battled constantly with the 'White' or non-communist forces, and the American soldiers were often caught in the middle. Moreover, neither the 'Reds' or 'Whites' had much interest in the observing the customary laws of land warfare; prisoners of war were not ordinarily taken. The Americans, however, accepted the surrender of combatants, and MAJ Galen served as the command's representative on the "Allied Commission of Prisoners of War." No doubt Galen observed that Bolsheviks falling into American hands fared better than those who did not. In this photograph, for example, Czech soldiers allied with the 'White' forces have just captured this group of Bolsheviks. They were executed a short time later.
World War II
In 1940, the Army was once again preparing for war. The legal challenges presented by this buildup were staggering, and now Army lawyers were making policy recommendations as well as providing legal advice and opinions. When the threat of war became reality, judge advocates would once again be tested on the battlefield as well as in the courtroom.
COL Thomas H. Green
After the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the operational tempo increased markedly for judge advocates. Some were immediately called upon to handle missions of incredible importance and sensitivity. In Hawaii, for example, COL Thomas H. Green, who had been serving as Staff Judge Advocate for the Hawaiian Department, assumed duties as the executive to the military governor. In that position, Green was largely responsible for promulgating and issuing orders and other measures implementing the transition from civil government to military government on December 7, 1941. In most cases, these orders were without precedent and required the broadest legal knowledge in order to make them properly effective. As a practical matter, COL Green was largely responsible for the day-to-day operation of the military government in the Territory of Hawaii.
1LT Samuel Spitzer
Combat in the European Theater of Operations was bloody and brutal. 1LT Samuel E. Spitzer was well aware of this on the morning of July 31, 1944. Laying down his weapons, Spitzer walked down the center of a small French town, calling out in German for the German soldiers to surrender. As a result, 508 Germans were captured. Spitzer's bold action saved numerous American lives, and for his courage, the young lieutenant was awarded the Silver Star.
COL Hubert E. Miller
While Spitzer received the Silver Star as a judge advocate, others who would later serve in the Corps were being recognized for their personal courage. Thus, for example, then infantry 1LT Hubert E. Miller (pictured here as the Staff Judge Advocate, 1st Logistical Command, Vietnam, in 1966) received the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in Normandy in 1944. A superb athlete, Miller later participated in the 1952 Olympic Games (four-man bobsled), becoming the only judge advocate to compete in the Games while a member of the Corps.Back to top.
MG Myron C. Cramer (center)
But World War II was not just about "judge advocates in combat." Recognizing that they would enhance mission success if the Corp assisted soldiers with their personal legal problems, the Corps' leaders established a formal "Legal Assistance Plan." In this photograph, taken at the Army-Navy Country Club in March 1944, MG Myron C. Cramer, TJAG, and other dignitaries, celebrate the 1st anniversary of the Army legal assistance program.
The end of World War II thrust Army lawyers into a new area. Judge advocates assisted with the prosecution of Nazi Party leaders for "Crimes Against Humanity" at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, Germany. Trials also were conducted in Tokyo, where Japanese war criminals were prosecuted.
Less publicized were the trials of the rank and file military personnel who had actually committed or ordered war crimes. The Judge Advocate General's Department supervised these trials, and judge advocates participated in many of them as prosecutors. In many of these trials, Army lawyers also served as defense counsel to ensure that German and Japanese defendants received adequate legal representation.
Finally, there were courts-martial arising out of the chaos of war that had nothing to do with war crimes. In 1946, for example, COL Jack Durant and his wife, CPT Kathleen Nash, were court-martialed for stealing jewels belong to the House of Hesse. These "crown" jewels, worth millions of dollars, had been discovered the year previously by CPT Nash in Schloss Friederishoff. The Hesse family had hidden the jewels in this schloss, their family's castle, for safekeeping. After Nash discovered the hiding place, however, she, Durant, and another officer smuggled the jewels to the United States. At trial, all three accuseds claimed that, as looting was commonplace in Occupied Germany, their misconduct should be excused. The court members were unconvinced. Durant, shown in this photograph with his two defense lawyers, received 15 years in jail. Nash received five years. Much of the Hesse treasure was never found---and remains unrecovered.
Creation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice
An immediate effect of a unified Department of Defense (DoD) in 1947 was the need for a unified criminal code that would govern all military personnel. As a result, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) was drafted in 1949, approved in 1950, and took effect on May 31, 1951 in the midst of the Korean War. The UCMJ was the most comprehensive change in military law in America's history, providing the individual soldier with needed legal safeguards and establishing a system of judicial review comparable to that enjoyed by civilians. Key provisions included the new right for an enlisted accused to have at least 1/3 enlisted soldiers on the court-martial panel; prior to the enactment of the UCMJ, all courts-martial were heard by juries of officers.
This photograph shows the first all enlisted court-martial, convened in France in July 1953.
The new UCMJ came into effect while the fighting in Korea was already underway. Judge advocates quickly mastered the new system, aided by their legal specialists. It was during this period the legal specialist series MOS was created, defining the duties and training of enlisted legal clerks. This was part of a continuing effort to establish a formal program of instruction and training for Corps personnel that began in World War II.
MG E.M. Brannon (center)
During the Korean War, judge advocates served with distinction. In this photograph, MG E. M. Brannon, TJAG, confers with BG Phillip D. Ginder, CG, 45th Infantry Division, in 1953. COL Claude Reitsel, Jr., SJA, US Eighth Army, looks on.
LTC Howard S. Levie
As the fighting in Korea ended, however, judge advocates continued to demonstrate their value. For example, COL Howard S. Levie (shown here as a LTC), an expert in international law, was the key draftsman of the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement.
Central to JAG Corps instruction and training was The Judge Advocate General's School (TJAGSA), which opened at the University of Michigan law school in September 1942. In this photograph, students of an early "JAG School" class pose for a photograph.
5th OCS Class at Ann Arbor
Transforming raw civilians into military attorneys with good soldier skills required innovative approaches. Consequently, the Corps ran its own Officer Candidate School (OCS) from 1943 to 1945. In the first photograph, students in the fifth OCS class take their class photograph in early 1944. In the second photograph, students of the 10th Officer Candidate class, on the school 'parade ground' at the Univ. of Michigan, take their oaths as officers in March 1945.
10th OCS Class at Ann Arbor
At the end of the war, the school was deactivated, but the need for a permanent training facility was obvious and, in 1950, TJAGSA reopened its doors on Fort Myer, Va. This photograph shows the members of the first class at Ft. Myer.
1st TJAGSA Class at Ft Myer
TJAGSA's location in the Washington, D.C. area, however, was shortlived; in 1951 the school re-located to the grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Today, TJAGSA continues to be the only American Bar Association accredited law school in the country that focuses exclusively on military law, and teaches judge advocates and civilian attorneys from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, as well as other agencies outside of the Defense Department.
Legal specialists receive their basic instruction at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Because of the high standards required for legal work, enlisted personnel in the Corps often are very mature and well-educated. As their careers progress, legal specialists must also receive advanced training at Charlottesville.
The Corps' warrant officer legal administrators, who are selected from the ranks of the Corps' legal specialists, receive their basic training at TJAGSA in Charlottesville. Again, as they progress in their careers, they receive advanced training at TJAGSA.
Finally, the Corps' ever-expanding ranks of civilian lawyers regularly attend continuing education classes at TJAGSA, with a select few also attending the year-long Master of Military Laws program there.
One distinguished judge advocate who did much for TJAGSA was COL William S. Fulton, who served as commandant in the 1970s. After retiring from active duty, Fulton continued serving the Corps as the Clerk of Court, U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals, until he finally retired from Federal service in 1998.
COL William S. Fulton
The complex nature of guerrilla war spawned a host of complicated legal issues. Just as type of war waged by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong demanded non-traditional responses from the American Army, some judge advocates also realized that the traditional way of providing legal services was no longer way enough. Consequently, a number of judge advocates spearheaded unique efforts to enhance mission success in ways not seen previously. For example, LTC George E. Eblen (pictured here with South Vietnamese Army Chief of Staff LTG Le Van Ty, in 1962) decided that he should begin monitoring war crimes committed by the Viet Cong against Americans.
LTC George E. Eblen (left)
Eblen's decision to tape record all interviews of U.S. personnel claiming mistreatment resulted in a command policy that a military lawyer participate in all future debriefings involving war crimes.
COL George S. Prugh (pictured here as TJAG), likewise initiated a number of non-traditional initiatives. While serving as the Staff Judge Advocate at Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, from 1964 to 1966, Prugh created a U.S.-Vietnamese Law Society and arranged for Vietnamese lawyers to study in the United States. He also established a legal advisory program that monitored real-world operations of South Vietnam's criminal justice system. Of particular significance, however, was COL Prugh's successful effort in persuading the South Vietnamese military that its conflict with the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese was no longer an internal civil disorder. This was a significant achievement for, once its military leaders accepted the international nature of the conflict, the South Vietnamese government also acceded to this view---and agreed that the provisions of the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War would be applied.
MG George S. Prugh
As always, judge advocates acquitted themselves with honor and courage on the battlefield. Here, judge advocates assigned to the 25th Infantry Division "Tropic Lightning" pose for a photograph in 1970.
Conducting a court-martial in a combat zone could be dangerous, but that was Standard Operating Procedure in Vietnam. In this photograph, taken in Vietnam shortly after the enactment of the Military
Judge advocate CPT Ken Gray was awarded a Bronze Star medal for meritorious service in Vietnam. At about the same time, infantry 1LT Mike Nardotti received a Silver Star for gallantry. Twenty-five years later, they would serve together on the same team with Mike Nardotti as The Judge Advocate General and Ken Gray as The Assistant Judge Advocate General. Gray was also the Corps' first black general officer.
Post-Vietnam Era and the Birth of Operational Law
MG Ken Gray
The Army's experience in Vietnam planted the seeds for an end to the almost exclusive focus of judge advocates on military justice---and peacetime legal issues. The murders at My Lai, and the investigations and courts-martial that followed, all culminated in a 1974 Department of Defense Directive tasking Army judge advocates with a new mission: ensuring that all U.S. military operations complied strictly with the Law of War. Accomplishing this new responsibility now required Army lawyers regularly to immerse themselves in many aspects of operational planning and execution---and thus assume a role that earlier judge advocates did not see as part of their duties.
A number of perceptive judge advocates realized that this new legal mission inexorably meant judge advocate integration into operations at all levels, and they initiated efforts to move the Corps toward this end. The real catalyst for change, however, occurred in late 1983, when American forces launched Operation URGENT FURY. The operation in Grenada was a wake-up call for judge advocates, and the Corps' leadership now formally recognized that a contingency-oriented Army did require, in fact, judge advocates adept at handling more than traditional peacetime legal missions. It was essential that Army lawyers now be schooled in a new role and a new legal discipline: operational law---a compendium of domestic, foreign and international law applicable to U.S. forces engaged in military operations at home and abroad.
Over the next fifteen years, the JAG Corps reconfigured its assets and training to support this new judge advocate role. By 1989, when U.S. forces began deploying to Southwest Asia as part of Operation DESERT SHIELD, the JAG Corps was ready.
War in Southwest Asia
Army lawyers and legal specialists worked around the clock to solve the legal problems created by the rapid deployment to Saudi Arabia. Commanders at all levels now saw their judge advocates as important force-multipliers. They were first class attorneys who prosecuted and defended courts-martial, adjudicated claims, and advised individual soldiers on a variety of personal legal problems. But, their new role meant that these same lawyers also contributed to mission success in countless other ways---from drafting Rules of Engagement and providing advice on targeting, using combat contracting to purchase special fabric for force protection, and assisting Division (G-2) intelligence personnel in gathering war crimes evidence, to constructing bunkers and fighting positions, investigating friendly fire incidents, and drafting war trophy policies.
A critical player in legal decision making at the highest level was COL Raymond C. Ruppert, the Staff Judge Advocate, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). In this photograph, taken at Safwan, Iraq in March 1991, Ruppert stands next to his boss, GEN H. Norman Scharzkopf, the Commander-in-Chief, CENTCOM.
With the commencement of DESERT STORM, Army lawyers moved to the front with their commanders. This photograph shows the three corps-level staff judge advocates of DESERT STORM. From left to right are COL John Bozeman, XVIII Airborne Corps, COL Walt Huffman, VII Corps, and COL Bill Hagan, 22d Support Command. All three looked for new ways for lawyers to enhance mission success.
The Corps Looks to the 21st Century
The soldiers of Force XXI and the Army After Next must be diplomats, managers, relief workers, and police officers as well as warriors. Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Rwanda illustrate the complicated political, economic, and social issues---legal and non-legal---confronting commanders. It is no longer unusual, for example, for Army lawyers to work along side judge advocates from other nations. Thus, while serving as the U.N. Mission in Haiti Force (UNMIH) Legal Advisor, MAJ Mark S. Ackerman, was assisted by Canadian judge advocate MAJ Marc B. Philippe. In this photograph, taken in Port-au-Prince in 1995, Ackerman (left) and Philippe (right) advise COL Khatak, Commander, Pakistan Contingent, UNMIH Military Force.
The digital battlefield and the increased 'optempo' of both combat missions and Operations Other Than War will increase and intensify these challenges. Commanders will require soldiers who can recognize issues and provide solutions quickly.
The JAG Corps is preparing its men and women to meet these challenges. To aid them is the new Corps doctrine, enunciated in FM 27-100, Legal Support to Operations. At long last, men and women in the Corps have clear guidance on the role of the Army lawyer and how legal support to military operations is provided through operational law and the "Six Core Legal Disciplines" of administrative law, civil law, claims, international law, legal assistance, and military justice.
This doctrinal foundation for legal operations will allow judge advocates to better serve the Army. And, while the metamorphosis of the JAG Corps from an organization of special staff officers to today's emphasis on judge advocate integration into operations will continue, the Corps is ready for new challenges in the new millennium.